Iran
syria

Biden’s first air-strikes: the Great Game in Syria

In the first air-strikes on Syria under the Joseph Biden administration, US warplanes¬†struck positions of Iran-backed militia forces at a¬†Revolutionary Guards base near the Iraqi border in the country’s desert east. The Pentagon said the strikes “destroyed multiple facilities at a border control point used by a number of Iranian-backed militant groups,” including Kataib Hezbollah. It was also a Tehran-backed paramilitary formation that claimed responsibility for last week’s missile attack on the US airbase at Erbil, in northern Iraq.¬†The US bombing an Iran-backed militia in retaliation for an attack in Iraq¬†is a textbook example of how Syria has been turned into a playing field in the Great Power game.¬†(Image: Pixabay)

North Africa
Haftar

Libya: Blackwater CEO trafficked arms to Russia-backed warlord

Erik Prince, former CEO of the notorious private military company Blackwater, violated the UN arms embargo on Libya with a clandestine pipeline to a rebel warlord, according to a confidential report to the Security Council obtained by the New York Times. The report found that in 2019 Prince deployed a force of foreign mercenaries and weapons to renegade military commander Khalifa Haftar, who has been fighting to depose the UN-recognized Libyan government‚ÄĒand is also being aggressively backed by Russia.¬†(Photo via ISS Africa)

Syria
Aleppo

End impunity for chemical weapons use in Syria

The United Nations’ top disarmament official stressed the urgent need to identify those who have used chemical weapons in Syria, and hold them accountable for their deeds. “Without such an action, we are allowing the use of chemical weapons to take place with impunity,” Izumi Nakamitsu, UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, told the Security Council in a virtual briefing. Nakamitsu was briefing Council members on implementation of Resolution 2118, in which unanimous agreement was reached in 2013 to condemn “in the strongest terms” any use of chemical weapons in Syria. Yet the country has seen continued chemical attacks¬†since then.¬†In a new report, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) summarized 19 “outstanding issues” that remain, six-and-a-half years after the Bashar Assad regime claimed that it had handed over all chemical agents and destroyed all facilities. The OPCW expressed concern that at least one chemical weapons production facility in the country remains operational. (Photo of ruins of Aleppo, where chemical weapons were used in 2017: OCHA/Halldorsson via UN News)

The Andes
yaku

Indigenous candidate upsets Ecuador elections

Ecuador is heading to a run-off presidential race in April after leftist candidate Andrés Arauzof the Union of Hope (UNES) coalition won a first-round victory, following years of economic austerity made more painful by the pandemic. However, in a surprise development, his rival leftist Yaku Pérez Guartambel of the indigenous-based Pachakutik party emerged neck-to-neck with conservative banker Guillermo Lasso of the right-wing Creating Opportunities (CREO) party. The vote is still too close to call which challenger Arauz will face in the April run-off. Pérez portrays UNES and CREO alike as parties of the right that have embraced an economic model based on resource extraction. (Photo: Revista Crisis)

Central Asia
Uighurs

Huawei ethnicity-recognition tech tracks Uighurs

Top Chinese technology firms have registered patents for tools apparently designed to detect, track and monitor Uighurs, according to research by the Pennsylvania-based video surveillance watchdog group IPVM. A 2018 patent filed by Shenzhen-based tech giant Huaweiwith the State Intellectual Property Office¬†lists attributes by which an individual may be targeted, including “race (Han, Uighur).” IPVM also released details of a document issued by Huawei and its Beijing-based corporate partner Megvii, dubbed an “Interoperability Test Report,” which boasted of a “Uighur alarm” among the “basic functions of Megvii’s facial recognition system.” Said Rushan Abbas, executive director of the DC-based Campaign for Uyghurs:¬†“We cannot ignore the fact that these technologies have been developed in order to be able to efficiently carry out…brutal oppression.”¬†¬†(Photo:¬†Mvslim.com)

Watching the Shadows
Kremlin

Katie Halper: ‘Useful Idiot’ or Russian ‘infiltrator’?

Popular vlogger and comedian Katie Halper, whose journalistic take-downs of the Democratic Party establishment have been deftly exploited by the Kremlin propaganda machine, wears the accusation that she is a “useful idiot” for Russia as a badge of pride‚ÄĒ”Useful Idiots” is actually the sarcastic name of the podcast she co-hosts with the equally problematic Matt Taibbi. We’ve always wondered if such figures really are useful idiots, or something more sinister‚ÄĒknowing propagandists for Vladimir Putin’s reactionary global ambitions. The debate has suddenly exploded onto the left-wing vlogosphere. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Watching the Shadows
headlines

Targeted disinformation neutralizes US left

Progressives in the United States show little awareness of the disinformation specially targeting them. Denialism about Russian interference in the US elections is now translating into denialism about how dangerous the Trump presidency is.¬†In 2016, we saw Russian-promoted “left” sites and writers post memes and articles that trashed Hillary Clinton, equated Clinton and Trump, or even portrayed Clinton as the worse choice. They dominated “Leftbook” social media and helped depress the progressive vote‚ÄĒa decisive factor in Trump’s win. We are seeing a replay now. Biden and Harris are denounced far more than Trump on some “left” sites, while Trump’s incipient fascism is downplayed. This influence has also been felt in the appalling lack of protest against Trump. Through his round-ups of undocumented immigrants, his abandonment of climate and arms control treaties, the impeachment, progressives failed to fill the streets‚ÄĒuntil the Black Lives Matter uprising, bringing a new and different leadership to the fore. In a presentation for Women’s March Minnesota, longtime activist Terry Burke¬†examines how the US left is in danger of being manipulated and neutralized by a sophisticated online propaganda campaign, facilitated by the Kremlin and its media arms and corporate enablers like Facebook. (Image: TerryBurke)

Afghanistan
Afghan army

Iraq and Afghanistan: US troops out, Chevron in?

Playing to anti-war sentiment just in time for the election, the Trump administration announces a draw-down of thousands of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. This comes as Chevron has quietly signed an agreement with Iraq for the development of the massive Nassiriya oil-field. Chevron has also announced a new initiative with Kazakhstan, with an eye toward oil exports through a trans-Afghan pipeline. We’ve been hearing talk of a US “withdrawal” from Iraq and Afghanistan for years‚ÄĒbut military advisors and contractors have always remained, and ground troops have always been sent back in again as soon as things start to get out of hand. And as long as oil money follows the military, that will always be the case. Don’t be fooled.¬†(Photo: Army Amber via Pixaby)

Europe
RKF Jr

RFK Jr joins neo-Nazis in Berlin protest

Hundreds of far-right protesters broke through police barriers and tried to force their way into the German parliament building in Berlin. Many were waving the black, white and red flag of the pre-1918 German Empire that once inspired the Nazis. “The fact that Nazis with imperial war flags try to storm the Bundestag recalls the darkest period in German history,” said Robert Habeck, co-leader of Germany’s Greens party. The action came as part of a broader demonstration against Germany’s pandemic restrictions. The protest, which brought out many so-called “Corona-Truthers” who deny the pandemic altogether, was organized by right-wing parties including the anti-immigrant Alternative f√ľr Deutschland¬†and openly neo-Nazi¬†NPD. Some carried signs reading “Trump, please help,” and proffered conspiracy theories about Bill Gates seeking forced vaccinations. Among the speakers was Robert F. Kennedy Jr, who ironically Nazi-baited German Chancellor Angela Merkel, saying: “Today Berlin is once again the front against totalitarianism.” (Photo via¬†Daily Kos)

North America
nazi krishna

Hare Krishna Nazis (yes) strike in Los Angeles

A banner with the phrase “THE JEWS WANT A RACE WAR” was hung from an overpass above the heavily trafficked Interstate 405 in Los Angeles. An accompanying banner plugged the perpetrators’ website, GoyimTV.com. The site prominently displays a video of their followers standing on the overpass with the banners. The especially surreal twist is the evident involvement of some renegade Hare Krishna devotees. The site heavily promotes the vloggery of one Mukunda Dasa, a white Krishna convert who spouts an amalgam of Hindu and Nazi propaganda and imagery. This creepy convergence is not as strange as it may superficially seem, given the Hindu fascism of India’s ruler Narendra Modi. (Photo via JTA)

Afghanistan
Afghanistan

Is Russia really backing the Taliban?

The kneejerk squawking of “McCarthyism” any time new revelations of Moscow misdeeds emerge is tiresome and dangerous. But there is reason for skepticism about the claims that Russia is arming the Taliban in Afghanistan, and offering them a bounty to kill US troops.¬†This makes little sense in terms of the regional alliances:¬†US ally Pakistan has been the traditional patron of the Taliban, while¬†Russia’s closest ally in the region is Iran, which opposes the Taliban on sectarian grounds. The¬†notion that Moscow would do anything to strengthen the hand of Sunni extremism in¬†a country where it faced its own counterinsurgency quagmire in the ’80s, and which still borders its “near abroad,” stretches credulity.¬†(Photo of abandoned Soviet tank in Afghanistan via Wikimedia Commons)

East Asia
nimitz

US-China brinkmanship over Taiwan

In an alarming tit-for-tat, Taiwan’s defense ministry said that several Chinese fighter jets briefly entered the country’s air defense identification zone, and the US took the unusual move of flying a C-40A military transport plane over Taiwan. The US overflight was assailed by Beijing’s Taiwan Affairs Office as “an illegal act and a seriously provocative incident.” This comes as the US is deploying three aircraft carrier strike groups to the Pacific‚ÄĒthe first such triple deployment in three years, seen as an explicit warning to China. The deployment follows accusations by Lt. Gen. Kevin Schneider, commander of US forces in Japan, that China is using the COVID-19 crisis as a cover to push territorial claims in the South China Sea. (Photo of USS Nimitz: US Navy via USNI News)